Like our highway system, the infrastructure to move vast amounts of electricity is essential to New Jersey’s economic well-being and quality of life. While this infrastructure has served its purpose, a significant part of it needs to be replaced and upgraded to support the flow of power throughout New Jersey and maintain safe, reliable service for customers long into the future.
That’s why PSE&G is dedicating $3.5 billion over three years to reinforce New Jersey’s transmission backbone – the highway network for moving bulk power from where it’s produced to the ultimate consumer. This is in addition to the extensive, ongoing investments that PSE&G is making in electric and gas distribution – the “local roadways” of its pipes and wires – to support highly reliable service.
PSE&G’s transmission investments will provide approximately 6,500 jobs over the next three years, along with business for many suppliers and contractors. Moreover, a strengthened grid will allow power to move more efficiently across the state, and especially in North Jersey. Reducing congestion in this way not only supports reliability, but should help lower customer bills by over $200 million a year.
PSE&G has been investing for 109 years to support a strong, competitive New Jersey economy that continues to create thousands upon thousands of jobs and attracts the businesses of tomorrow. Yet, the company is taking its support for New Jersey to a new level, dedicating more than $5 billion over three years to replace aging energy infrastructure and expand access to energy efficiency and renewable solar power.
“We are proud of our strong, indeed, unique partnership with the people of New Jersey as a company that was founded with a mission to help make the state a great place to work and live,” says Ralph Izzo, PSEG’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “Improving New Jersey’s energy infrastructure on an ongoing basis is an important part of this mission. A world-class energy network goes hand in glove with a world-class economy.”
Strengthening New Jersey’s Transmission Backbone
Electric transmission—the highway network for moving power—represents the single largest part of PSE&G’s investment program. PSE&G is moving ahead with major transmission projects to ensure that homes and businesses across New Jersey will continue to benefit from highly reliable energy.
“These electric reliability projects are necessary to help avert blackouts and brownouts down the road,” explains Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G’s president and chief operating officer. “But this work will also give a lift to the economy in the here and now, increasing business opportunities and creating jobs. Moreover, by enabling power to move more seamlessly, these upgrades will help lower energy bills.”
Continuing to provide safe and reliable energy is not simply a job, but a fundamental responsibility at PSE&G, the oldest and largest electric and gas utility in New Jersey. Reliability is a company hallmark. PSE&G has won awards as the most reliable electric utility in its region for 10 consecutive years. However, reliability can never be taken for granted. There is a constant need to invest in a modernized infrastructure to support
and maintain safe, reliable service for customers and help power New Jersey’s economy.
The electric grid is the greatest engineering feat of the 20th century, according to the National Academy of Engineering. PSE&G was among the first utilities to develop transmission lines that today link consumers to energy markets that stretch across states and regions. The company’s transmission system spans about 1,400 circuit miles.
PSE&G was a founding member of the PJM Interconnection (PJM), one of the first organizations established to facilitate the interstate movement of power. Today, PJM oversees the electric grid in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia. This area stretches from New Jersey west to Illinois and south to North Carolina and includes 60 million people.
The need to upgrade New Jersey’s transmission backbone is apparent considering not only the age of the system, but also the growth of electric consumption. All the electronic appliances and gadgets that families find essential—mobile phones, computers, flat-screen televisions and other devices—have put new strains on an already congested grid.
Electricity usage per person has more than doubled since the 1970s. Upgrading the grid to handle the evolving demand for power isn’t a luxury, but rather a necessity— especially in a densely populated, high-tech state such as New Jersey.
Creating Jobs, Powering the Economy
Moreover, transmission investment creates jobs and stimulates the economy. Nationwide, $30 billion to $40 billion of annual economic activity will result from transmission investment averaging $14 billion a year through 2030, according to a recent study by the Brattle Group. Investment on this level will directly support 150,000 to 200,000 fulltime jobs each year.
In New Jersey, PSE&G’s transmission projects have already generated a large number of jobs and economic activity. In 2010, the company purchased approximately $100 million of products and services from 175 New Jersey businesses for its transmission projects in the Garden State. More than 500 local union workers were hired to do the work.
This activity increased further in 2011, and is expected to continue growing as PSE&G carries out numerous transmission projects over the next three years. For example, one key project, the Susquehanna to Roseland line, is estimated to have an economic impact of $247.5 million on New Jersey construction labor and create more than 2,000 jobs.
The North Central Reliability Project—another major transmission upgrade—is expected to generate $183 million in gross domestic product and another $137 million in labor compensation added to the New Jersey economy, according to Dr. Joseph J. Seneca, a professor at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
Moving Forward on Many Fronts with a Strong Team
Projects like this are no small undertaking, to say the least—they involve significant financial, siting, permitting, environmental and construction challenges. The foundation of the entire effort is finding people with the necessary expertise to engineer, design, construct and manage these projects from start to finish—always keeping safety first.
To help build the transmission lines, PSE&G formed the delivery projects and construction group in 2008. While drawing on in-depth experience in managing, constructing and delivering high-quality facilities, there was good reason to establish this new group with its own mobile construction workforce. It was recognized that the building of new backbone lines would involve the mobilization of dedicated know-how and substantial resources.
Fortunately, PSE&G didn’t have to look far for the right person to lead this effort. Kim Hanemann, vice president-delivery projects and construction, has headed it from the start. Since joining PSE&G as an engineer in 1986, Hanemann has held numerous leadership positions in both electric and gas field operations, as well as in utility support operations.
A great deal goes into getting transmission projects built and completed in the right way. First, it’s important to identify permitting requirements that are critical to success. Another key is to leverage innovative engineering designs and best management construction practices that help avoid and minimize environmental and public impacts. In addition to paying close attention to every technical detail, the importance of public outreach can’t be emphasized enough.
“We communicate and meet with residents and municipal officials along the project route to keep them up to date,” explains Hanemann. “In addition to holding public workshops to address questions and concerns, we maintain project-related Web sites to help ensure relevant information is widely available. We see this as important to meeting our responsibilities to the public and maintaining the company’s reputation as a good neighbor.”
PSE&G has a number of major transmission projects underway or on the horizon, including the Susquehanna to Roseland line, the North Central Reliability Project, the Northeast Grid Project, the Burlington-Camden Project, the Southern Reinforcement Project, the Jersey City-Bayonne Third Circuit Upgrade, and the Branchburg Capacitor Bank. In addition, work is moving ahead on many local reliability projects.
Making Essential Upgrades to a Key Power Line
The Susquehanna to Roseland (S-R) power line upgrade will be a key improvement to the region’s electrical infrastructure. The line is a joint project of PPL Electric Utilities in Pennsylvania and PSE&G in New Jersey. The S-R line runs 145 miles, connecting substations in Berwick, Pennsylvania, and Roseland, New Jersey. The route chosen by the utilities follows an existing right of way to help minimize impact on people and the environment.
The existing power line along this route was built starting in 1927, when New Jersey was still largely rural. At that time, mules were used to help transport materials to the work site. Since then, there have been dramatic changes. New Jersey’s population has more than doubled and electric demand has soared with electric-based technologies that could not be imagined in 1927. “It is essential to upgrade our 80-year-old transmission line, maintain the reliability of New Jersey’s electric system and support the economic growth and vitality of our state for many years to come,” says LaRossa.
The recession and strides in energy efficiency have not eliminated the need for the Susquehanna-Roseland power line. PJM has continued to reaffirm the need for the project based on its own careful analysis, reflecting, among other things, changes in demand response and updated load forecasts.
In 2011, the S-R line was placed on a list of high-priority projects by a new federal Rapid Response Team charged with coordinating and expediting the federal permitting process for critical infrastructure upgrades. This new transmission line will allow for the better movement of power from any source—whether coal, nuclear, natural gas or renewable resources such as solar or wind—to ensure this power gets to where it’s needed in New Jersey.
Currently, the S-R power line project is under review by the National Park Service (NPS), which is performing an environmental impact study. The NPS review is needed because the route chosen by the utilities crosses four miles of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Middle Delaware Scenic and Recreational River and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
In tandem with building this key power line, the utilities have proposed a mitigation plan involving the purchase or preservation of thousands of acres of land—identified as priorities by conservation groups—to expand public landholdings, support the mission of the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior, and enhance public enjoyment of the natural resources in the area.
Getting Power to Where It’s Needed: Safely and Reliably
In short, the Susquehanna-Roseland electric reliability project is exactly the type of improvement that public utilities are expected to make. The same can be said of PSE&G’s other reliability projects and related upgrades such as the two new capacitor banks at PSE&G’s Branchburg switching station.
A capacitor bank acts like a pump to regulate the flow of power on transmission lines. Electricity, measured in volts, does not move through lines in a fixed amount. The capacitor bank stores electrical power when the flow is too large and releases it when it is too low. In this way, electricity is pushed through the lines for use in homes and businesses at the precise time when needed.
The Branchburg switching station is an important hub handling about one quarter of PSE&G’s total energy consumed. The new capacitor banks will help keep that electricity moving to serve 1.6 million people and thousands of businesses throughout Somerset, Middlesex and Union counties.
Lowering Consumer Bills by Easing Congestion on the Power Grid
PSE&G’s transmission upgrades will not only enhance power quality, but also reduce transmission system congestion in the region and thus help lower customer bills. A strengthened grid will allow power to move more effectively across the state and especially in North Jersey. By one estimate, this could lower congestion costs by as much as $200 million annually.
PSE&G’s Northeast Grid transmission line upgrade is critical to support the flow of power and maintain reliability in a congested, heavily populated area of New Jersey. The project calls for upgrades to an existing transmission line running from Roseland in Essex County to Hudson County. It involves the construction of 25 miles of new overhead power lines and another 15 miles to 18 miles of underground lines, as well as upgrades to 12 substations and the replacement of more than 100 towers.
The Northeast Grid reliability project is expected to lower the cost of delivered power and result in additional economic benefits. This major infrastructure improvement will incorporate many advanced technologies, enabling the lines to be operated as part of a “smart grid.”
The Big Picture
Strong, reliable energy infrastructure takes on added importance in a gateway state such as New Jersey, which has long been a strategic hub and corridor. “There can be no neglecting essential bread-and-butter infrastructure, including world-class networks to move power safely and reliably to serve our customers and support New Jersey’s economic competitiveness and well-being,” says LaRossa. “As a company known as Public Service, we can do nothing less.”
// Zachary Narrett is a corporate writer for PSEG. //